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Five tips to get a better night's sleep, according to a sleep expert

Indy 100 logo Indy 100 13/02/2019 Chelsea Ritschel
a woman sitting on a bed © Provided by Independent Digital News & Media Limited

It may be the most natural thing in the world to do, but sometimes crawling into bed and falling asleep feels more like an impossible task.

Fortunately, whether you lay awake for hours or fall asleep only to wake up mid-night, there are changes you can make to ensure you achieve a better night’s sleep.

To find out what mistakes we are subconsciously or unknowingly making that sabotage our sleep, The Independent spoke to sleep expert and founder of Sleep Like A Boss Christine Hansen, who explained why we aren’t falling asleep and simple fixes for our most common sleep issues.

According to Hansen, to make sure you are sleeping, as it’s “what we were born to do,” there are five changes you can make to increase your chances of getting a perfect night’s sleep.

1. Take an hour to wind down before bed

If there’s one thing that is negatively impacting our sleep, it’s not taking the time to wind down before bed, according to Hansen, who told us: “You have to imagine falling asleep as a process. It’s like a fast-driving car shifting gears down to stop.”

Whether you follow a nightly skincare ritual, read a book, or you spend your last hour before bed perusing social media, make sure you take the time to do so before you attempt to fall asleep.

According to Hansen, this hour will allow you to finish everything you need to before you go to sleep so you won’t stress about it, while also slowing your body down.

To keep yourself on track, Hansen recommends setting a timer before you go to sleep to guarantee you have enough time to finish your nightly routine.

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2. Stop trying to calculate how much sleep you need

“People stress about how much sleep they need to get and controversially, sometimes people think they need more sleep than they actually do,” Hansen told us. “So they may calculate that they need eight hours or seven-and-a-half hours when actually they need less.”

According to Hansen, this obsession with calculating sleep can have a counterproductive effect - especially if it means you are going to sleep too early.

Although you may be worried about the hours of sleep you are fitting in, chances are, if you don't feel tired, you don't actually need to go to sleep just yet.

Letting your internal clock do its job is benefical in keeping sleep stress-free.

3. Consider what foods you are eating

Although Hansen said that it is “never just one thing” that is negatively impacting our sleep, she finds that food sensitivities are often to blame for restless nights.

According to Hansen, if there is a food - even a healthy one - that you are sensitive to but you are still eating it, it can create inflammation in your body and subsequently, a natural anti-inflammatory hormone called cortisol, which can ruin your sleep.

“Cortisol is a stimulating hormone and it is counterproductive to sleep,” Hansen told us.

To decipher whether inflammation is the issue, Hansen said it is important to consider how and when you are struggling to sleep.

Five things to cut out of your diet if you want a better nights sleep

If you find yourself waking up at 2am, “that is usually a sign that there is some inflammation, either in your gut or that there is a hormone imbalance,” which means experimenting with omitting foods that may be to blame is a good place to start.

4. Try leaving your phone in a different room

Our phones are also occasionally the root of our sleeping issues, according to Hansen, who explained to us that “sleeping near our phones is very individual” but that some people are “highly sensitive to electromagnetic frequencies and it can impact our sleep.”

According to Hansen, if you think your phone’s proximity may be causing your sleep issues, you can remedy the problem by bringing both your phone and charger into a different room.

Previous studies have also found removing technology from your bed can improve your overall sleep quality.

5. Take time to acknowledge thoughts and feelings that may keep you awake later as they happen

Stress and anxiety are large factors when it comes to restless sleep - which means dealing with issues and negative thoughts as they arise can often help you forget about them when it comes time to sleep.

According to Hansen: “When we go to bed, and it is quiet and it’s dark, that is when all the thoughts that we tend to push aside during the day start bubbling up.”

To keep your thoughts from interfering with your sleep, Hansen recommends “making time during the day to notice any thoughts that might be triggering you.”

“If you take time during the day when something uncomfortable is creeping up - it might be a comment by someone or a task you didn’t get done - just acknowledge it and let it know you’ve seen it, you’ve noticed it and you’ve felt it - and let it go,” she said.

You can also write down your feelings throughout the day, which can help you navigate how you feel about a certain incident or thought that is weighing you down.

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Once you’ve implemented changes to your sleeping behaviours and habits and implemented a focus on “clean sleeping,” sleep won’t be far behind, according to Hansen, who told us it only takes “three to four days until you already see how your body is responding.”

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